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Bush: A great statesman of rare decency

Updated: 2018-12-03 22:25
Children place flowers at the base of the statue in tribute to former US President George H.W. Bush in College Station, Texas, on Saturday. [Photo/Agencies]

World of politics unites to pay tribute to former US president who died at 94

WASHINGTON - Former US president George H.W. Bush is returning to Washington as a revered political statesman, hailed by leaders across the political spectrum and around the world as a man not only of greatness but also of uncommon decency and kindness.

Bush, who died late on Friday at his Houston home at age 94, is to be honored with a state funeral at National Cathedral in the nation's capital on Wednesday, followed by burial on Thursday on the grounds of his presidential library at Texas A&M.

Before that, his body will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda for a public viewing from his arrival in Washington on Monday until Wednesday morning.

US President Donald Trump, who ordered federal offices closed for a national day of mourning on Wednesday, is to attend with first lady Melania Trump and other high-ranking officials.

Bush's crowning achievement as president was assembling the international military coalition that liberated Kuwait from neighbor Iraq in 1991 in a war that lasted just 100 hours. He also presided over the end of the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union.

"We didn't agree much on domestic policy, but when it came to the international side of things, he was a very wise and thoughtful man," former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, a Democrat who lost the presidency to Bush in 1988, said on Saturday.

He credited Bush's ability to negotiate with former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev as playing a key role.

"It was a time of great change, demanding great responsibility from everyone," Gorbachev told the Interfax news agency. "The result was the end of the Cold War and nuclear arms race."

In Washington, the former Republican president won praise from leaders of both parties.

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan lauded him for leading the nation with "decency and integrity", while Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi said it was a "privilege to work with him".

A humble hero of World War II, Bush was just 20 when he survived being shot down during a bombing run over Japan. He had enlisted in the US Navy on his 18th birthday.

Shortly before leaving the service, he married his 19-year-old sweetheart, Barbara Pierce, a union that lasted until her death in April this year.

After military service, Bush moved to Texas to work in the oil business, before turning his attention to politics in the 1960s. He would go on to serve as ambassador to the United Nations and China, head of the CIA and chairman of the Republican National Committee before being elected to two terms as Ronald Reagan's vice-president.

He lost his bid for re-election as president to then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, who would later become a close friend. The pair worked together to raise tens of millions of dollars for victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, which swamped New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005.

"Who would have thought that I would be working with Bill Clinton of all people?" he joked in 2005.

Clinton said he would be "forever grateful" for that friendship.

Associated Press

 

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